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ASHES
By Kevin Brodie

GENRE: Drama
LOGLINE:

A combative college professor accused of Holocaust denial tries to clear his name and repair the strained relationship with his teenage daughter before the scandal irreparably widens the chasm between them.

SYNOPSIS:

William Sweeney is an accomplished professor, best selling author and cable television personality. He struggles to be a good father to his sullen teenage daughter, Sophia. Sophia blames Sweeney for the death of her mother in a car accident, and seems intent on inflicting cruelty and indifference upon her father. Sweeney accepts the abuse, but continues to try and please his daughter. Sweeney shares the campus with Professor Lucy Rosenberg—his old flame from graduate school, and now his biggest campus rival.

The situation becomes more complicated when it is reported that Sweeney has a secret life as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Sweeney tries to defend himself from these accusations. Lucy steadfastly refuses to discuss the matter with anyone. The campus meanwhile is now a tense and dangerous place. Protests and demonstrations for and against Sweeney threaten to consume the campus in an emotional firestorm. Sweeney is attacked by two students with such ferocity that he has to be hospitalized. Sophia begins to doubt the harsh manner in which she has rendered her father, and considers forgiving him. Lucy, though, shocks everyone by publicly supporting Sweeney’s right to free speech—but her stance becomes misconstrued as support for his beliefs. She even testifies in his defense before the university regents.

Lucy’s allies and family desert her, while Sweeney resigns his position. The revelation that Sweeney is no longer employed by the university causes a celebration on campus that quickly degenerates into a riot. Lucy’s public declaration of support puts her and Sweeney on a collision course. Sophia stumbles upon their final showdown, only to overhear the real reason Sweeney left Lucy in graduate school: she’s a Jew. Sophia is devastated. The accusations against her father were all true—but Sophia’s beloved mother also shared his beliefs. Ultimately, Sophia leaves her father, forcing him to pay a high price for his prejudice and deception.

ASHES

View screenplay
Mark LaFever

Kevin - this is very well-constructed. You hook a reader/audience member with compelling characters, you pull the reader/audience along with a plot that makes sense organically, and you work dramatic tension well. The only real negative I might bring up is that there's kinda no payoff, in a way...the professor we might have sympathized with from the beginning turns out to be not so awesome after all. His daughter, while sort of vindicated in the end, never really seems all that likable. The only major character consistently worthy of sympathy seems to be the professor's ex. Maybe a stronger focus on her (versus on Sweeney) might make for a less gloomy viewing experience. Not that shiny-happy-perfect is any kind of requirement, of course...

Kevin Brodie

Mark--thanks so much for your feedback! I have recently uploaded a revision, which I feel addresses some of the criticisms you raised. Cheers. :-)

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